Signs of Spring: Week 1

By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

A burst of blooming Snowdrops along a sunny bank at Ashland. Image by Derek Stoner.

At the end of the first week of the Signs of Spring Contest, February 21-27, a flurry of emergences occurred. 

On February 24, Amy White reported the first Skunk Cabbages blooming, in the old marsh across Barley Mill Road from Ashland. 

On February 25th, Jill Constantine and Sarah Stapley reported finding Snowdrops in full bloom near the covered bridge.  Also on that day, Spring Peepers started calling in the Ashland Marsh– a relatively quiet chorus, but a start nonetheless.

Not the first, not the second, but maybe the third Groundhog seen at Ashland this year. Observed March 2 outside the butterfly house at the center. Image by Derek Stoner.

A new week (February 28 to March 6) is underway, and already a couple of new sightings are being reported. 

On February 28, Jean Beattie spotted a male Groundhog dashing by the front door of the nature center.   Later that evening, a light rain and temperatures in the mid-50’s coaxed the first Wood Frogs to emerge.  After dark, I found a female Wood Frog crossing the driveway on her way to the marsh.  As is (my) tradition at Ashland, I captured her and put her in a holding cage overnight. 

The "First of Season" female Wood Frog poses before heading into the marsh for the breeding season. Image by Derek Stoner.

The next morning she made the rounds at the office, proudly on display as the “First Official Wood Frog of 2011” before heading outside for a quick photo session and release into a puddle near the marsh.  Overnight the puddle had developed a skim of ice, so that frog was dipping into some chilly water for her first swim of the New Year.  Wood Frogs are incredibly hardy amphibians, and well-known for their ability to deal with icy and snowy conditions during their early emergences.   And in other early-emerging news, Jim White spotted the first Snapping Turtle of the year on March 1 in the Ashland Marsh.

Now we wait for the big numbers of Wood Frogs to make their way down to the marsh and begin the egg laying extravaganza.  That is the next big sign we are waiting for: Wood Frog Egg Masses! 

Signs of Spring Contest Update:

For clarification purposes, sightings of Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow and House Wren must be of birds that are returning to the property and spending time at Ashland.  This is to differentiate from migrants that simply fly over and do not land on Ashland turf.

For those keeping score, we already have 5 of the 20 Signs of Spring accounted for at Ashland: Snowdrops and Skunk Cabbages blooming, Spring Peepers calling, Groundhog and Snapping Turtle.

What Signs of Spring are you seeing around your homes and local natural areas?

Leave a Reply